New Brunswick

Fredericton residents rally to protect downtown trees from destruction

Marcus Kingston says the city's plan to chop downtown trees will turn the 'city of stately elms' into the city of 'stately stumps.'

Protestors argue city needs to rework development plans to spare the trees

Marcus Kingston with his protest sign under one of the trees he wants to protect. (Sarah Petz/CBC )

Dozens of Fredericton residents gathered in Officers' Square Saturday afternoon to protest the city's plans to chop down a number of trees in the area - a plan protesters argue is tantamount to destroying the history and beauty of the park.

19 trees are set to be cut down over the next weeks and months to make way for plans to revitalize the area.

In the end, four trees will be left standing in the park.

Protestors gathered in Officers' Square Saturday for roughly an hour. (Sarah Petz/CBC )

Marcus Kingston said he thinks the loss of so many trees will take away from the city's character.

"We're known as the 'city of stately elms.' We'll now be the city of stately stumps."

"People come to Fredericton for its quaintness, for its trees," he said.

Christy Rust, who helped organize the protest, said the trees are part of the park's history and deserve to be saved.

Christy Rust, pictured with her son Jesse, helped organise Saturday's protest. (Sarah Petz/CBC )

"We sort of owe it to them to protect them as best we can," she said.

Amidst the $8.9 million renovation plans, is the planned construction of a permanent main stage at Officers' Square.

On top of their concerns about the trees, some of Saturday's protestors argue that development plans could destroy historical artifacts on the site and pushed for the city to complete a manual archaeological dig before moving ahead with any construction.

Jason Jeandron says he believes the city needs to do an archaeological dig before beginning any development on the site.

"There's so much significant and valuable information associated with this site, to haul it away with an excavator and put it in the dump, is I think wholly unacceptable. It cannot be allowed to happen, I think," said Jason Jeandron, a professional archaeologist by trade.

Mayor, council join debate 

Mayor Mike O'Brien and Coun. John MacDermid both came out to listen to protestors' concerns, speaking with attendees for at least an hour.

O'Brien said he couldn't commit to anything but that he would definitely take their comments back to council and city staff to discuss whether anything can be done.

"A lot of things are in motion, but you never say never," he said.

Mayor Mike O'Brien speaks with protestors. (Sarah Petz/CBC )

He said he would also ask city staff to look into whether an archaeological dig could - or should - be done.

Some protestors also said they felt blindsided by the decision and that the city should have been more transparent.

O'Brien said that was never the city's intention but admitted that sometimes, council could do a better job of communicating its plans to the public in advance.

"If it caught people off guard, I can only apologize, because there was no intention to do that," he said.